Monday, June 29, 2015

The Twin Light of the Eyes in the Body

On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, here is an appropriate homily by Saint Leo the Great.
* * * * * *

When the twelve Apostles, after receiving through the Holy Spirit the power of speaking with all tongues, had distributed the world into parts among themselves, and undertaken to instruct it in the Gospel, the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostolic band, was appointed to the citadel of the Roman empire, that the light of Truth which was being displayed for the salvation of all the nations, might spread itself more effectively throughout the body of the world from the head itself. What nation had not representatives then living in this city; or what peoples did not know what Rome had learned? Here it was that the tenets of philosophy must be crushed, here that the follies of earthly wisdom must be dispelled, here that the cult of demons must be refuted, here that the blasphemy of all idolatries must be rooted out, here where the most persistent superstition had gathered together all the various errors which had anywhere been devised.

To this city then, most blessed Apostle Peter, you do not fear to come, and when the Apostle Paul, the partner of your glory, was still busied with regulating other churches, entered this forest of roaring beasts, this deep, stormy ocean with greater boldness than when you walked upon the sea. And you who had been frightened by the high priest's maid in the house of Caiaphas, had no fear of Rome the mistress of the world. It was the force of love that conquered the reasons for fear: and you did not think those to be feared whom you had undertaken to love. But this feeling of fearless affection you had even then surely conceived when the profession of your love for the Lord was confirmed by the mystery of the thrice-repeated question. And nothing else was demanded of this your earnest purpose than that you should bestow the food wherewith you had yourself been enriched, on feeding His sheep whom you loved.

Your confidence also was increased by many miraculous signs, by many gifts of grace, by many proofs of power. You had already taught the people, who from the number of the circumcised had believed: you had already founded the Church at Antioch, where first the dignity of the Christian name arose: you had already instructed Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, in the laws of the Gospel message: and, without doubt as to the success of the work, with full knowledge of the short span of your life carried the trophy of Christ's cross into the citadel of Rome.

Then came also your blessed brother-Apostle Paul, the vessel of election, and the special teacher of the Gentiles, and was associated with you at a time when all innocence, all modesty, all freedom was in jeopardy under Nero's rule. Whose fury, inflamed by excess of all vices, hurled him headlong into such a fiery furnace of madness that he was the first to assail the Christian name with a general persecution, as if God's Grace could be quenched by the death of saints, whose greatest gain it was to win eternal happiness by contempt of this fleeting life. Precious, therefore, in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints: nor can any degree of cruelty destroy the religion which is founded on the mystery of Christ's Cross. Persecution does not diminish but increase the Church, and the Lord's field is clothed with an ever richer crop.

And over this band, dearly-beloved, whom God has set forth for our example in patience and for our confirmation in the faith, there must be rejoicing everywhere in the commemoration of all the saints, but of these two Fathers of excellence we must rightly make our boast in louder joy, for God's grace has raised them to so high a place among the members of the Church, that He has set them like the twin light of the eyes in the body, whose Head is Christ. About their merits and virtues, which pass all power of speech, we must not make distinctions, because they were equal in their election , alike in their toils, undivided in their death. But as we have proved for ourselves, and our forefathers maintained, we believe, and are sure that, amid all the toils of this life, we must always be assisted in obtaining God's mercy by the prayers of special interceders, that we may be raised by the Apostles' merits in proportion as we are weighed down by our own sins.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 5, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Saint Jerome describes the spirit that entered into Ezekiel as a spirit of prophecy.  The name Ezekiel means “strength of God.” 

“Son of man” is a familiar title in the Gospels as Jesus took this title out of humility.  No one gave Jesus this title; He called Himself by these words to show that He was a humble Servant sent by the Almighty as is Ezekiel who, in this Reading, prefigures Christ. 

Sadly, the world still has those who are “hard of face and obstinate of heart.”  If and when we meet up with individuals who fit this description, consider it a blessing.  We bear the name of “Christian” which not only means that we are followers of Jesus Christ, it also means that we must be Jesus Christ to everyone we meet.  We are all prophets when we have the opportunity to share the joy we have and it is no accident when we are given those opportunities to evangelize.  Like Ezekiel, we have been sent by God to share the Good News.  And we hope and pray that the words that God uses to speak through us as well as the example we give from His Spirit dwelling within us will lead to the conversion of others.  We may never know about any of the successes of our evangelization efforts; but at least those we meet “shall know that a prophet has been among them.”     

Second Reading Commentary
“A thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.”  These words are not meant to be taken literally.  The message that Saint Paul is trying to convey is that his ministry has given him much trouble and pain.  Ancient scholars believed that Paul was suffering from very painful headaches.  Saint John Chrysostom believes that Paul is referring to the opposition he faced in his ministry and the “angel of Satan” would be Paul’s name for an adversary.  Other opinions suggest that Paul is being constantly bombarded with temptations of the flesh which is being permitted by God for Paul’s greater good.  One or all of these theories may be correct.  Since Saint Paul’s words are metaphoric, it’s difficult to know exactly what he meant.  What we do know is that Paul’s ministry was one of many emotional and physical hardships. 

“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me.”  In this verse, the words “three times” are also not meant to be interpreted literally.  It is signifying “many times.” 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  These words may seem a bit awkward at first glance because we don’t usually think of power and weakness as being in harmony.  The basic message here is to show that when we are at our weakest, it is then that we will see the strength of God’s grace at work within us to sustain us.  When we feel weak and helpless, or think there’s nowhere else to turn, that’s usually when we rely on or call upon God the most.  To try and understand this more fully, all we need to do is look at the example of Jesus.  When He was at His weakest moment, nailed to the Cross, it was then that something of great power and strength was achieved, the salvation of humanity. 

Gospel Commentary
Whether or not to follow Jesus is only a decision that we can make as individuals using our God given free will.  Our friends and relatives can’t make that decision for us.  Not even God can make that decision for us.  Only we can decide whether we are going to embrace His love and love Him in return, or reject Him. 

In this Gospel we see Jesus rejected by “His native place.”  As a result, “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”  The same is true for us.  If we do not embrace God’s love, it will be difficult for us to witness the mighty power of God at work within us.

There is a purpose to everything that Jesus did.  Perhaps in this Gospel Jesus is showing His apostles and us that discipleship will sometimes face rejection, even among our friends and family.  Also, this rejection is preparing His disciples for the final rejection, when Jesus is crucified.  If we need to find comfort when the world rejects us or if we lack courage for fear of rejection from others because of our love for Jesus, remember the words of our Lord in John 16:33, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Isn’t there some level of trepidation in the statement that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith?” Can our faith be so lacking or non-existent that even Jesus Himself is scratching His Head?  Does today’s highly secularized culture, our moral relativistic society amaze Jesus?  And if so, what will be the cost? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Saint Anthelm

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Saint Anthelm. A Carthusian monk tells us about him:

* * * * * *

Anthelm of Chignin was born into a noble family of Savoy, France, in 1107. He chose the ecclesiastical state, became a canon and received important prebends and dignities. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, he refused to find his joy in these exterior possessions and human glory. He had a brother who was Procurator at the Charterhouse of Portes. Conversations with his brother when he visited him and with the Prior convinced him of the excellence of Christian abnegation in the monastic life. He asked for the Carthusian habit at Portes in 1135 and soon surpassed the other monks there in the monastic virtues.

This came to the ear of the superior of the Grande Chartreuse, Guigo, who asked the Prior of Portes to send Anthelm to the Mother house, where an avalanche had killed seven of the monks a short time earlier. So it was at the Grande Chartreuse that Anthelm made profession. Under Guigo’s successor, Hugh, Anthelm was made Procurator. He humbly accepted this charge, although he did not feel any attraction to it, and fulfilled his office with much profit for the House without overlooking his own spiritual needs.

When a new Prior was needed, the community, by a unanimous vote, elected Anthelm (1139). As Prior, he rebuilt the Mother house at a site less susceptible to avalanches. But his principal endeavor was the spiritual progress of the community which soon experienced his firmness, tenderness, wisdom and humility. He visited his monks with frequency in their cells and the gentleness of his words filled their hearts with peace. The sick, both in body and soul, had the particular interest of his fatherly care. He had a special gift in providing a remedy for temptations and in animating those who were discouraged. As regards those who were proficient in the spiritual life, he judged them worthy of all honors. He showed to them all the proofs of perfect esteem even going as far as to give them the right of way as they passed by and to stand up in their presence.

It was during his priorate that the wish was expressed by the Priors of the other Charterhouses for a more stable and more structured organization of the Order in the form of an annual General Chapter. Anthelm was open to this and welcomed the first General Chapter at the Grande Chartreuse in 1140. After the foundation by Saint Bruno in 1084, this first General Chapter was like a ‘second starting point’ for our Order.

Humble as he was, he repeatedly asked to be dismissed as Prior. After twelve years, in 1151, he finally obtained this. But as the Prior of Portes had died at that time, the monks of Portes asked Basil, Anthelm’s successor as superior of the Mother house, to send them the latter as their new Prior. Anthelm had to accept this. During his priorate storms destroying the harvest in the region of Portes caused a scarcity of food. Anthelm distributed generously wheat and vegetables from the monastery storage rooms to the farmers. He also came to the financial aid of other monasteries.

Two years later the diocese of Belley, in which Portes is located, needed a new Bishop. The people there strongly wanted Anthelm to become the Bishop. He refused, but to no avail. Pope Alexander III ordered him to accept and ordained Anthelm in 1163. As Bishop he offered great services to the Church. Within the first year of his consecration he launched a reform of the clergy. He defended the rights of the Church against the powerful. A bitter conflict with Humbert, count of Savoy, ended with Humbert asking the holy Bishop’s forgiveness, which the latter granted him with great benignity.

He kept up the same monastic fervor as before. Every year he would withdraw for a few days at the Grande Chartreuse, where he had a cell like the other monks.

Recommending charity and concord to his priests, Saint Anthelm died on June 26, 1178. Because of the many miracles at his tomb he was soon venerated. Today he is the patron Saint of the diocese of Belley, where the cathedral preciously keeps his relics. His feast is kept both by the Carthusians and the diocese of Belley on June 26.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blessed John of Spain

Today on the Carthusian calendar is the feast of Blessed John of Spain. Here’s what a Carthusian monk tells us about Blessed John:

* * * * * *

Blessed John was born in 1123 in the kingdom of Leon in Spain. At the age of thirteen he left his country for France, both to escape the Moslems and for the purpose of studies. He settled in the town of Arles, in Southern France. At sixteen he felt drawn to the monastic life and entered a monastery in the vicinity. After some years, he heard about the recently founded Order of the Carthusians and their monastery of Montrieux not far away, founded in 1118, five years before he himself was born. Drawn to their austere and entirely contemplative life, he joined the Carthusians there. Once a Carthusian, he was ordained a priest, was named sacristan and eventually — still a man in his twenties — elected Prior. We may assume he was precocious on the natural level, but even more so by the early maturity of his virtues.

The nuns of the monastery of Prébayon in the vicinity, following the Rules of Saint Caesarius of Arles and of Saint Benedict, were so impressed with the fervor of Montrieux under John’s leadership that they asked to be admitted to our Order, which till then had consisted only of monks. The Prior of our Mother house, la Grande Chartreuse, and Superior General of the Order, Saint Anthelm, authorized this. He asked John to adapt the Customs of Guigo, which were our Rule at that time, to the nuns. He did so and this was the beginning of the female branch of our Order.

Various difficulties at Montrieux lead to his retirement from the priorship and he moved to la Grande Chartreuse in 1150. Just then, a noble lord in neighbouring Savoy asked for a monastery of Carthusians on his lands. Saint Anthelm saw in Blessed John the man of Providence. He sent him to make the foundation in Savoy, which was eventually given the name of le Reposoir. There he governed wisely as Prior for some years.

On June 25, 1160 John died, not yet forty years old. Through unusual circumstances he was interred not inside the enclosure, as the custom is, but outside. In fact, during his priorate, two servants of the monastery, having died in the mountains, under an avalanche of snow, had been interred in an inappropriate place, outside the enclosure, for which John had been reproved. To make amends he had made his monks swear that after his death, they would bury him at the same place as the two servants. This, however, permitted John’s tomb — with his renown for sanctity — to become the object of popular pilgrimages. The faithful prayed at his tomb and many miracles occurred in the course of the centuries, particularly cures of malignant fever. In 1864 Blessed Pius IX approved the cult of Blessed John of Spain, venerated since time immemorial.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Principal Heavenly Patron

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.  The beautiful artwork for this post is attributed to Jan Provoost, a mid-to-late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Flemish painter. In this piece our Blessed Mother is enthroned beneath a canopy. The Child Jesus is holding a book in His right Hand, perhaps the Sacred Scriptures, while in His left Hand He is holding a Rosary. In the background on the right is a figure enclosed in a garden, symbolizing our Lady’s virginity and chastity. A Carthusian monk is kneeling, apparently to be the recipient of the Rosary. The life of a Carthusian, that of silence and solitude, of both communal and eremitical life, is reflected in the iconography of this painting. The Carthusian is accompanied by Saint John the Baptist, a hermit of the desert. Behind him is the Lamb of God. Also accompanying the Carthusian is Saint Jerome, which symbolizes asceticism. 

In the Statutes of the Carthusian Order we read: “One should note that all our hermitages are dedicated in the first place to the Blessed Mary ever Virgin and Saint John the Baptist, our principal heavenly patrons.” 

An example of Carthusian Profession goes like this: “I, Brother ______, promise stability, obedience, and conversion of my life, before God, His saints, and the relics belonging to this hermitage, which was built in honor of God, the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, and Saint John the Baptist, in the presence of Dom ______, Prior.” 

For the Carthusian, Saint John the Baptist is a hermit in the desert, a solitary, and one who is focused on God alone. 

Also in the Statutes of the Order are these words: “John the Baptist, greater than whom, the Savior tells us, has not risen among those born of women, is another striking example of the safety and value of solitude. Trusting not in the fact that divine prophecy had foretold that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and that he would go before Christ the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah; nor in the fact that his birth had been miraculous, and that his parents were saints, he fled the society of men as something dangerous and chose the security of desert solitude: and, in actual fact, as long as he dwelt alone in the desert, he knew neither danger nor death. Moreover the virtue and merit he attained there are amply attested by his unique call to baptize Christ, and by his acceptance of death for the sake of justice. For, schooled in sanctity in solitude, he, alone of all men, became worthy to wash Christ — Christ Who washes all things clean — and worthy, too, to undergo prison bonds and death itself in the cause of truth.” 

And then the Statutes give us something to think about: “And now, dear reader, ponder and reflect on the great spiritual benefits derived from solitude by the holy and venerable Fathers, Paul, Anthony, Hilarion, Benedict, and others beyond number, and you will readily agree that for tasting the spiritual savor of psalmody; for penetrating the message of the written page; for kindling the fire of fervent prayer; for engaging in profound meditation; for losing oneself in mystic contemplation; for obtaining the heavenly dew of purifying tears — nothing is more helpful than solitude.” 

Sancte Ioannes Baptista, ora pro nobis!

Monday, June 22, 2015

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 28, 2015

First Reading Commentary
The author of the Book of Wisdom identifies himself as Solomon but many scholars believe that the writings are of Greek origin.  Wisdom is often portrayed in Scripture as female in gender evidenced by the use of feminine pronouns.  That may be due to the fact that the Greek word for wisdom is “Sophia”.  Mystically, the Virgin Mary is addressed in her Litany with the Latin words, “Sedes Sapientiæ” -- “Seat of Wisdom”. 

“God formed man to be imperishable” but man’s gift of free will succumbed to “the envy of the devil” sentencing man to death.  But God entered into the world through the Seat of Wisdom to experience the life of man in every facet, even to the point of death.  Christ suffered death on the Cross but in doing so confronted man’s adversary.  He took on man’s eternal sentence and defeated it fulfilling God’s will that man should be imperishable. 

To choose God is to choose eternal life.  Because of free will, however, it is possible to choose the devil and “belong to his company.”  As absurd as that choice sounds, we’re all very much aware of our own weaknesses, and the struggles we go through to not surrender to the temptations that appeal to those weaknesses. 

Without the existence of prayer and penance in one’s life, it’s very possible to not only give in to those weaknesses constantly but also dig a hole that can become too deep to get out of because the pleasures that feeds those weaknesses becomes a god.  The devil can only offer an eternity of condemnation, but he is quite capable of making the deceptive road that leads to it very attractive.

Second Reading Commentary
The opening verse is a little confusing as Saint Paul prays for us to excel in our Christian walk; but when he writes, “and in the love we have for you” almost reads like we are to excel in the love Paul has for us, which doesn’t make sense.  What follows clears it up a little with the words, “may you excel in this gracious act also”; in other words, excel in the love we have for each other using Paul’s love for us as a model, which, of course, is a model of Christ’s love.  The Latin translates more clearly as it reads: “abound . . . in your charity towards us.”  To excel or abound in the Christian faith and all that goes along with it, first and foremost requires a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In His poverty He wore the crown of thorns in order that we may wear the crown of glory.  He accepted the hatred from His enemies, even though He prayed for them, so that we may know the love of the Father.  He lived in poverty so that we may live in the mansions of His Father’s Kingdom. 

When Paul speaks of equality, certainly this could be applied to temporal goods - those who have much helping those who have little to nothing.  On a spiritual level, however, those with a rich faith, through means of evangelization and living out a life of faith, by the charity of the Holy Spirit, can bring comfort and build up those who struggle with matters of faith.  We are all made in the Image and likeness of God and are called to share in an eternal destiny which promises the riches of the Father’s Kingdom.                

Gospel Commentary
Parish communities, in other words, crowds gather on Sunday for Mass and sometimes crowds will gather for Eucharistic Adoration.  Jesus welcomes us together as His Mystical Body but as also evidenced in this Gospel, Jesus gives His undivided attention to us as individuals as well.  Being in the Presence of Jesus as a community of believers doesn’t require us to be pushing each other in order to get His attention or vie for position.  He loves us communally and individually with a boundless dose of unconditional, perfect, Divine Love.  Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is an inexpressible joy and blessing both communally and individually.  And our community is not limited to those within the walls of our parish church. 

Mass is an eternal event which connects us to every Mass that has ever occurred or will occur in both heaven and earth as well as to every soul because we are the Mystical Body of Christ.  Walls as well as the laws of time and space cannot divide us nor can they disturb the re-presenting of One Supreme Sacrifice.  When looking at a community from that perspective, Jesus loving us as individuals becomes even more mind boggling. 

When Jesus heals the twelve year old girl, He orders her to be given something to eat.  Now ask yourself, which is better: To be physically healed and fed a hamburger, or to continue with a physical frailty and have your soul fed with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ?  Even when given a second chance at life, one should consider how that second chance can be used to grow closer to Jesus. 

Another example for your consideration: Is it better to touch the garment of Jesus and have your physical infirmity healed even though your physical body will continue to decay as the years pass by; or is it more desirable to have your soul touched and healed by Christ’s Eucharistic Self - a soul, by the way, that will live on forever? 

If you have a personal prayer need, there is no better time to ask our Lord than right after receiving the Eucharist.  You will never in this life be more intimately connected to Jesus than right after being fed with His Precious Body and Blood.  Hear the Voice that comes from your soul when He says: “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” 

Jesus praises the faith of the woman who touched His garment.  But perhaps a more praiseworthy faith is one that does not despair when a prayer need is not met, but instead simply and submissively accepts that Christ’s perfect and Divine will always is and forever shall be superior to our own.  It is then that our Lord’s words to the woman in this Gospel have a much deeper and intimate meaning: “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Gift of God

Today's post comes from a modern day Carthusian who died in 1987. His name is Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion. He was a monk of La Valsainte Charterhouse in Switzerland.

* * * * * *

Our destiny is to a life of the greatest intimacy with God Himself. This union between the soul and its Creator was established when God raised our first parents to the supernatural state. But by sin, they revolted against God, and the bond between heaven and earth was broken. It needed a man-God to heal that rupture, and it is now, by the Passion and merits of our divine Savior, that we can once again become children of God, and share in the divine life.

We received that life in baptism and, if it is our misfortune to have forfeited that life by sin, our Lord gives it back to us through the merits of His Precious Blood every time we receive absolution.

Now we realize how absolutely essential it is for us to avoid sin if we are to preserve the most precious gift God has given to man. "If you knew the gift of God . . ." (John 4:10). God grant that our Lord’s words to the woman at the well may never become a reproach to us.

All the evils in the world are nothing compared to one sin, for one grave sin robs us of the divine life. In order to understand something of the gravity of sin, think of what it means. What Christian would dare to enter a church furtively and violate the Tabernacle, scattering the sacred Hosts from the dishonored ciborium? Even if we thought of such a thing, would we have the unhappy daring to do it? Surely, even the most lukewarm Christian would not dare to commit such a sacrilege to the Body of our Lord. Yet what does sin in fact do? Does it not banish God from our hearts, and deliver us over to the power of Satan?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Viva et Rotunda Voce

Chanting, Carthusian style, is not only pleasing to the ears when listening to it on a CD, but it can also open wide the temple doors of the soul for edifying interior delights.

Robin Bruce Lockhart, author of, “Halfway to Heaven: The Hidden Life of the Carthusians” devotes a couple of paragraphs in this book to the Carthusian chant. He writes:

“The Carthusian day begins at an hour when much of the world is carousing or just starting to sleep off the excesses of a materialistic day. At 11:45 p.m. the monk rises from his austere bed to say the Little Office of Our Lady, then, leaving his cell, he wends his way through the cloisters to the monastery church. The choir stalls fill up, the professed monks in their white habits, the Novices in their black cloaks. The church is in almost total darkness, the only light coming from the sanctuary lamp and the shaded low lamps in the choir. After a period of deep silence the chanting of the long night vigil of Matins and Lauds begins. The chanting carries, in its cadences, soaring praises of God, then sinks down to lowly supplication. At times it almost seems to break into a sobbing of repentance before pouring itself out in heartfelt whispers of love. The singing, steeped in Gregorian antiquity, has a holiness all its own, and as a sung office proceeds it is impossible not to sense how the fervor of the Psalms takes over, enveloping not only the monks but also the listener in the tribune.”

A “tribune” is a part of the church building used to accommodate visitors who will witness the chanting of the Offices, although permission to enter the Charterhouse is rare.

Robin Bruce Lockhart continues:

“The purity of the Carthusian chant . . . has been jealously maintained for centuries; slower, lower-pitched and less melismatic than the Benedictine chant, it is considered more deeply spiritual by those who have heard both.”

And then follows these astonishing words:

“The seventeenth-century Cardinal Bona, who undertook vast research into liturgy, records that it was the Carthusian chant which Christ recommended in His revelations to Saint Bridget, the patron saint of Sweden.”

And the book finalizes the subject of the Carthusian chant with these words:

“No organ or other musical instrument accompanies the chant, and in his liturgy the Carthusian seems to be projected by its sacred power to a point where eternity meets his temporal existence.” And that particular sentence is footnoted with a personal note from the author: “Even Benedictines, renowned for their singing, with whom I have spoken admit to the greater spirituality of the Carthusian chant.”

Pope Pius XI, wrote in the Apostolic Constitution, Umbratilem, these words: “At fixed hours of the day and night they assemble in the sacred temple, not merely to chant the Divine Office without modulation, as is the custom in other Orders, but to sing the whole of it ‘viva et rotunda voce’ - in lifelike, moulded tones - according to the very ancient Gregorian melodies of their choir books, and with the accompaniment of no musical instrument. How should God Who is so merciful, fail to grant the prayers of those most pious brethren who thus raise their voices to Him in behalf of the Church and of sinners who need conversion?”

Two popular Carthusian chant CD’s on the market are: “In the Silence of the Word” recorded by the monks at Parkminster; and the other is, “Into Great Silence: Office of the Night” which is the soundtrack to Philip Gröning’s movie about life at La Grande Chartreuse. In the former, all the chants are in Latin and the Readings are recited in English. In the latter, the chants are also in Latin and the Readings are chanted recto tono in French. The latter also has a more realistic “as if you were really there” approach to it because various changes in body posture can be heard as well as sounds like the clearing of throats and coughing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 21, 2015

First Reading Commentary
For the word “storm” the Latin Vulgate uses the word “turbine” which means “whirlwind” and you’ve probably guessed that from “turbine” is where we get the word “turbulence”. 

This Reading is an ideal opener for this weekend’s Gospel.  We live in an age where weather patterns have seemingly brought the world an increase of violent storms.  But perhaps what plagues our minds even more than uncontrollable winds and water are our personal storms - those problems we face in life that just never seem to go away.  God reminds Job and us Who is the One that can still the turbulence. 

As Christians, we can and should remind ourselves Who is the One that is even more powerful than death.  As we’re looking for our personal storms to be stilled, God is teaching us about His desire for us to be still and have faith as He says: “Be still and see that I am God” (Psalm 45 [46]:11).          

Second Reading Commentary
Allowing oneself to be butchered and nailed to a cross for the sake of love probably seems unreasonable or even maniacal to the human mind.  Although faithful Christians would never use such strong adjectives when speaking of Christ, His level of love is, nonetheless, far beyond human comprehension. 

The only way to defeat an enemy is to confront it.  Every human being that has crossed over that line and confronted death has lost - that is, until God became Man.  Jesus confronted death and death lost.  Our chance at everlasting life was given to us because of death’s everlasting defeat at the Hands of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

As unfair as it seems to be cursed with original sin at birth because of one man’s fall, then we’d have to admit that it’s equally unfair to be offered a chance at eternal bliss because of one Man’s victory.  But who’s complaining about the victory? 

At baptism we experience death, that is, death of the old self but we rise to a new life in Christ.  Unfortunately, the way of our culture indicates that this new life is taken for granted.  But the only way to change our culture is to first change ourselves and be faithful to that new life in Christ.                  

Gospel Commentary
For most of us, as evening draws on, we cross over from our jobs to our life at home.  Given the stress level that many face at their place of business, as well as the possible inclement weather during the trip back and forth, plus traffic jams, the art of defensive driving, and even at home where financial concerns, our children’s grades in school, physical health and a whole closet full of other possible concerns plague our minds, it’s fair to say that we’re not strangers to storms. 

In this Gospel story, a good image to form in your mind is that when you’re in a boat out in the middle of the ocean and the waves are crashing on all sides, there is seemingly nowhere to turn.  What can you do?  The key here from this Gospel is that Jesus is with His disciples in the crowds, He is with them in the boat, and He is with them in the “violent squall”. 

The question asked in this Gospel, “Do you not care that we are perishing,” in our lives can easily be translated into words we have said such as, “Why me Lord” or “Why are You allowing this to happen to me” or “What good could possibly come from this?” 

Jesus is asleep because is He is the Calm in every storm.  Meteorologists tell us that the eye of a storm is the calmest part.  Jesus is our Eye!  We need to acknowledge that Jesus is with us at home, on the job, and on all journeys of life.  And acknowledgment here is not simply an understanding or belief, but instead, efforts have to be made throughout the day to say a little prayer to keep ourselves ever mindful of His Presence. 

A Carthusian monk, Dom Augustin Guillerand, calls this a “movement towards Him Who Is”.  To constantly move towards Christ is to never forget He is there.  And finally, it was also Dom Augustin Guillerand who wrote: “Prayer is the duty of every moment.”  And in this turbulence we call “life,” who could ever question that?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mary and Scriptural Typology

God’s harmony in creating the universe mysteriously foresaw the need for a Redeemer and His helper, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sacred Scripture prefigures her in many occurrences. Here are some of those examples:

God said to Abraham: Sarai your wife you shall not call Sarai, but Sarah. And I will bless her, and from her I will give you a son, whom I will bless, and he shall become nations, and kings of people shall spring from him. ~ Genesis 17:15-16In this passage Sarah symbolizes motherhood by means of divine interposition. Sarah was beyond the age of childbirth according to the natural law and Mary was a Virgin. Both circumstances make pregnancy unforeseen; thus, both circumstances required that the Creator of the natural law would step in and do something supernatural.

So Jael, Heber's wife, took a nail of the tent, and taking also a hammer: and going in softly, and with silence, she put the nail upon the temples of his head, and striking it with the hammer, drove it through his brain fast into the ground: and so passing from deep sleep to death, he fainted away and died. ~ Judges 4:21
By the power given to her by her Son, our Blessed Mother, the new Jael, will crush the head of the evil one prefigured in this scriptural verse by Sisera.

The canticle of Judith in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Judith gives all the glory to God for her victory. This prefigures our Lady and most especially her words in the Magnificat.

In the First Book of Samuel, chapter 25, Abigail falls at the feet of David and begs him to look past the sins of Nabal. This clearly is a look into the New and Everlasting Covenant in which our Blessed Mother pleads to our Savior on our behalf and also her mission of reconciling sinners to her Son.

There are a couple of situations in the First Book of Kings, chapter 1, which prefigure Mary. First, and very briefly, Abishag the Sunamite is ministering to the king – certainly a role that would be humbly accepted by our Lady and foretold elsewhere in Sacred Scripture: “… et in habitatione sancta coram ipso ministravi” – “… and in the holy dwelling-place I have ministered before Him” (Ecclesiasticus 24:14 & Vespers of Our Lady). Second, Bathsheba bows to the face of the earth and worships the king. Certainly our Holy Mother is no stranger to approaching the Throne and the King of kings.

In the second chapter of the Book of Esther, Esther is brought before the king and as the verse reads, “she pleased him and found favor in his sight” (Esther 2:9). Our Blessed Lady is without stain and humbly submits to the will of her Creator; therefore she is always pleasing in the sight of the King of kings – she is His masterpiece.

Denys the Carthusian wrote in his Works: “Many women have gathered together great spiritual treasures, but you, O Virgin most admirable, have surpassed them all. For if, according to Saint Jerome, no one is good when compared to God, in like manner no virgin is perfect in comparison with you.”

Mary is also prefigured by some terms used in both the Old and New Testaments like, Mount Zion (cf. Isaiah 8:18), the Chosen City (cf. 1 Kings 8:44), the Temple of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16), the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Testament (cf. Hebrews 9:3-4).

The prophet Ezekiel says something that surely turns ones reflections towards Mary when he speaks of a gate that only the Lord may enter which looks to the east (cf. Ezekiel 43:4).

She is also the Rod of Aaron that blossomed (cf. Hebrews 9:4).

The Blessed Virgin is also prefigured in the fleece of Gideon which on dry ground was moistened by heavenly dew (cf. Judges 6:37-38).

Mary is also the rod which comes forth out of the root of Jesse as prophesied by Isaiah (cf. 11:1).
She is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up (cf. Canticles 4:12).

Beyond Scripture, surely Mary is visible to us in the works of nature. Isn’t she the Dawn preceding the Sun? She is the Star which brightens the night sky. She is the most beautiful of all flowers. She is a sweet-smelling fragrance.

A Carthusian monk wrote that our Lady is “scattered by God throughout His creation! With a little recollection and goodwill, how easy the life of faith can become. Everything that our eyes light upon has the power to raise our hearts to Mary and, reminding us of all that is attractive in her, can inflame our souls with heavenly desires.”

In the midst of so much beauty and all that is pleasing to the contemplative way, we must, as Lanspergius the Carthusian wrote, “desire intensely to eradicate from [our] soul all that displeases [our] heavenly Mother, and to obtain from God through her intercession all that will be pleasing to her.”

Friday, June 12, 2015

Considerations: by Innocent Le Masson

Consider what were the impulses of the Sacred Heart of Jesus when His Soul returned to It and restored It to life. O Sacred Heart, Your repose in the sepulcher only served to make known to us still more the ardor of Your charity towards us. How applicable to You at this time are these words of David: “According to the multitude of your sorrows in my heart your comforts have given joy to my soul” (Psalm 93 [94]:19). And these also of the same Prophet: “I rose up and am still with you” (Psalm 138 [139]:18). O Sacred Heart, if I do not deserve to participate in Your joys, grant me grace to partake of Your charity and Your fidelity in accomplishing the will of Your Heavenly Father.

Consider the impulses of the Sacred Heart of Jesus risen, towards His holy Mother. With what ardent love He hastened to console her for the sufferings He knew His Passion and death had caused her! What must not have been the emotions of the Hearts of the Son and of the Mother in this meeting! O holy Heart of Mary, how you melted at the first word from the risen Heart of your dearly beloved Son! The Heart of the Son and that of the Mother melted together. Speak of these two Hearts communing and blending the one with the other so divinely. Tell them all your heart suggests, and ask for their protection and a share in their holiness.

Consider how loving were the impulses of the Sacred Heart of Jesus when He came to show Himself to His disciples that they might take part in the joys of His Resurrection. See His amiable devices of charity with regard to Saint Mary Magdalene and the disciples at Emmaus, in order to impart to them a more lively sense of the sweetness of His ardent love. Behold what He does and what He permits in order to cure Saint Thomas of his unbelief and to prevent ours! O Sacred Heart of Jesus, most amiable, most loving and most ardent of all hearts, vouchsafe to speak to my heart as You did to those of the disciples at Emmaus, and make it burn with the fire of Your holy love, that, like them, I may constrain You to stay with me, and may, with a faith and love resembling that of Thomas, say with him: “My Lord and my God!” (Luke 20:28).

Development of the Sacred Heart

Here is the reflection offered in the Second Nocturn for the hour of Matins in today’s traditional Divine Office for the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For those who are unfamiliar with the traditional Office, you’ll see in the final paragraph the term “double of the first class” which indicates a Feast of the highest rank. Today, that ranking has been changed to the term “Solemnity.”

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Among the wonderful developments of sacred teaching and piety, by which the plans of the divine Wisdom are daily made clear to the Church, hardly any is more manifest than the triumphant progress made by the devotion of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Very often indeed, during the course of past ages, Fathers, Doctors, and Saints have celebrated our Redeemer's love; and they have said that the Wound opened in the Side of Christ was the hidden fountain of all graces. Moreover, from the Middle Ages onward, when the faithful began to show a more tender piety towards the most sacred Humanity of the Savior, contemplative souls became accustomed to penetrate through that Wound almost to the very Heart itself, wounded for the love of men. And from that time, this form of contemplation became so familiar to all persons of saintly life, that there was no country or Religious Order in which, during this period, witnesses to it were not to be found. Finally, during recent centuries, and most especially at that period when heretics, in the name of a false piety, strove to discourage Christians from receiving the most Holy Eucharist, the veneration of the Most Sacred Heart began to be openly practiced, principally through the exertions of Saint John Eudes, who is by no means unworthily called the founder of the liturgical worship of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

But in order to establish fully and entirely the worship of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to spread the same throughout the whole world, God Himself chose as His instrument a most humble virgin from the Order of the Visitation, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, who even in her earliest years already had a burning love for the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and to whom Christ the Lord had very many times appeared, and was pleased to make known the riches and the desires of His Divine Heart. The most famous of these apparitions was that in which Jesus revealed Himself to her in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, showed her His Most Sacred Heart, and complaining that in return for His unbounded love, He met with nothing but outrages and ingratitude from mankind, He ordered her to concern herself with the establishment of a new Feast, on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, on which His Heart should be venerated with due honor, and that the insults offered Him by sinners in the Sacrament of love should be expiated by worthy satisfaction. But there is no one who doesn’t know how many and how great were the obstacles which the handmaid of God experienced, in carrying out the commands of Christ; but endowed with strength by the Lord Himself, and actively aided by her pious spiritual directors, who exerted themselves with an almost unbelievable zeal, up to the time of her death she never ceased faithfully to carry out the duty entrusted to her by heaven.

At length, in the year 1765, the Supreme Pontiff Clement XIII approved the Mass and Office in honor of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; and Pius IX extended the Feast to the universal Church. From then on the worship of the Most Sacred Heart, like an overflowing river, washing away all obstacles, has poured itself forth over all the earth, and at the dawn of the new century, Leo XIII, having proclaimed a jubilee, decided to dedicate the whole human race to the Most Sacred Heart. This consecration was actually carried out with solemn rites in all the churches of the Catholic world, and brought about a great increase of this devotion, leading not only nations but even private families to it, who in countless numbers dedicated themselves to the Divine Heart, and submitted themselves to its royal sway. Lastly, the Sovereign Pontiff Pius XI, in order that, by its solemnity, the Feast might answer more fully to the greatly widespread devotion of the Christian people, raised the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to the rite of a double of the first class, with an octave; and moreover, that the violated rights of Christ, the Supreme King and most loving Lord, might be repaired, and that the sins of the nations might be bewailed, he ordered that annually, on that same Feast day, there should be recited an expiatory form of prayer in all the churches of the Christian world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

This Heart of Virtues

The Carthusians have brought forth a good amount of writings on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. One of their authors is Johannes Gerecht of Landsberg (1489-1539). He’s sometimes identified as John Justus of Landsberg but perhaps most familiarly by the single Latinized name of Lanspergius. He joined the Carthusians at the age of twenty and entered the Charterhouse in Köln where he would eventually become the novice-master. In the year 1530 he became prior of the Charterhouse of Cantave. Here are some of his reflections.
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How to honor the Heart of Jesus

Jesus to the faithful soul: Christian Soul, I will teach thee how to honor My Wounds, particularly that of My Divine Heart which was wounded for love of thee. After My Resurrection, I showed the Wounds of My Hands, My Feet, and My Side to My Apostles, saying to them: See, handle, look at Me carefully. They did so without delay. Imitate them. If thou wouldst touch, in spirit, the Wound of My Side consider with deep gratitude the love of My Heart, which has led Me to choose thee from all eternity to be My child and the inheritor of My Kingdom.

Offer Me this prayer: Lord of infinite mercy, through this Wound of intense love, through this Wound so great that it can contain the earth, the heavens, and all that is therein, I unite my love to Thy Divine love, in order that, in this way and by it, my love may be made perfect, may lose itself in Thine, and be blended with it as two metals liquefied by fire and mixed together form but one. May our two wills become only one, or rather, may mine be wholly united to and always in perfect conformity with Thine. Into the burning furnace of Thy Heart, into this Wound of love, I cast my affections, my inclinations, my thoughts, and my desires, that all that is covered with rust and defilement, all that is imperfect and in disorder, may be destroyed by the flames. Then will my heart, all cleansed and renewed, be wholly consumed in Thee and for Thee.

Behold this Heart which has so much loved me 

In order to manifest more clearly His infinite love, Jesus has opened to us His Heart. It is to make us understand that all He has endured for us, He has endured just on account of the love with which His Heart was filled. After showing to us the pains suffered in His Body, Jesus wishes us also to see the love of His most merciful, most faithful, most loving Heart, which inspired Him with the desire and the necessity of suffering for us.

The Wound of the Sacred Heart of Jesus teaches us to pray unceasingly that our hearts may be so pierced with the spear of charity, that tears of compunction and of divine love may be as a river always flowing in our souls.

The Wound of the Side, which is the Wound of the Heart, therefore makes known to us the warm-hearted charity of Jesus Christ, a love which sheds an ineffable radiance over all His actions, all His words, and all His sufferings, filling them with unspeakable sweetness.

What the Heart of Jesus teaches us

The Wound of the Side, that is to say, the Wound of the Heart, teaches us how great is the tender love of Jesus Christ. The love of Jesus is very fervent and very deep. It is poured out on all men, even on those who are ungrateful and are His enemies; and this love has chosen the Wound of the Sacred Heart for its dwelling. No one was able to take away our Lord's life, but love conquered Him and constrained Him to deliver Himself up to death for us. Yet even death could not make His love to cease. Why indeed was His Heart opened with a spear after death, if not to point out to us this love, which determined Him to endure so many pains and such deep suffering for our sake?

When your mind is filled with dangerous thoughts and evil inclinations, when you sigh under the weight of trouble, sadness and affliction, take refuge in the Wounds of Jesus, above all in that which opens to you the door of His Heart. Hide yourself in His Heart, cast yourself into It, cling to It; and the remembrance of so much loving kindness will make you forget your sorrows and your sufferings.

The Water and the Blood

The Sacraments of the Church, especially Baptism and Penance, receive their efficacy from this Blood and Water which gushed out from the Heart of Jesus. Our Divine Master suffered His Side to be opened and His Heart to be pierced as though He would say to us: I have shed the Blood that was in all My members, and now I give the rest, even to the last drop. Having given up My Body to torments and My Soul to death, there is nothing more that I can do, unless it be to open My Heart which has loved you so much, so that you may not only draw near to Me by coming to the Cross, but may also enter, through this Wound, into My Heart.

O my beloved Brothers, let us meditate on the five virtues which our Savior's five Wounds reveal to us, and let us ask for these virtues, which are humility, poverty, obedience, patience, and charity. I might say six virtues, for the Wound of the Heart of Jesus teaches us that, in receiving it, Jesus practiced two virtues. From the other Wounds there came out Blood only, but from the Heart there flowed both Blood and Water. In the Blood I see boundless love, and in the Water the symbol of the purity of Jesus, Who is the Lamb without spot, the reflection of the eternal Light, the splendor and glory of the Father, to Whom be all praise, honor, glory, and thanksgiving.

Monday, June 8, 2015

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 14, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Ezekiel is a prophet and thus one has to interpret this Reading from a prophetic, mystical view.  Otherwise, this Reading is a puzzle if trying to understand it from the surface only. 

The “crest of the cedar” is referring to the royal stock of David. 

The “tender shoot” planted “on a high and lofty mountain” is Jesus.  And what is this “high and lofty mountain?”  Literally Mount Zion but prophetically it is the Church. 

A lofty spiritual life of each and every one of us is intimated in this Reading as “birds of every kind” does not mean birds literally.  Birds can fly, therefore this imagery is used to designate the souls of those for whom prayer is a priority; and through this life of prayer grow closer to Jesus and thus are able to lift their souls above the desires for temporal goods.  That is, those, who like everyone else, must live and work in this world and labor for the Lord in it but are able to find that trustful, heavenly peace in all its troubles. 

This is why secularism and relativism is so dangerous.  Those ideologies will never find peace in a troubled world.  Many kingdoms have come and gone in human history, but Christ’s Kingdom remains forever as will His Church as He has always, in the midst of her storms, guided her to safety.
Second Reading Commentary
Being “away from the Lord” simply means that we are pilgrims.  Notice the comparison: We are like those who are on a journey and are far from home.  Such an environment can be taxing.  Perhaps no one can relate to that journey more than those who serve in the military, especially those who are in harm’s way.  But Saint Paul calls us to be on a spiritual journey possessing courage and faith. 

We all know how rough the road can be as no one escapes the journey without suffering.  Our faith tells us that all of us at His appointed time will “leave the body and go home to the Lord,” to “appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”  Until that time, what is our mission?  Saint Paul answers that for us: “We aspire to please Him, whether we are home or away.” 

Anyone who has journeyed to other nations whose language and culture is different from what they’re accustomed to knows how uncomfortable that can be at times.  In the spiritual life we are strangers in a foreign land.  As Saint Augustine said: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee” (Confessions of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo).

Gospel Commentary
The scattering of seed which sprouts and grows is explained by Saint Jerome as the preaching of the Gospel and knowledge of the Scriptures which makes the Kingdom of God grow in the heart of man. 

Saint Ambrose speaks of the mustard seed as such: “If the Kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, and faith is like to a grain of mustard seed, faith is then truly the Kingdom of heaven, and the Kingdom of heaven is faith.  He therefore that has faith possesses the Kingdom of heaven.  And the Kingdom of heaven is within us, and faith is within us.  Now let us, from the nature of the mustard seed, estimate the force of this comparison.  Its seed is indeed very plain, and of little value; but if bruised or crushed it shows forth its power.  So faith first seems a simple thing, but if it is bruised by its enemies it gives forth proof of its power, so as to fill others who hear or read of it with the odor of its sweetness.” 

And we are called to live out this faith as Saint Aphraates teaches us: “It is not enough to read and to study the Sacred Scriptures; we must fulfill them also.” 

On the parables of Jesus, Nicholas of Lyra, a Franciscan exegete, writes:  “We must observe that parables have more explanations than one: some more easy while others are more difficult to understand.  In parables, the multitude understood the more literal interpretation, while Christ explains the more abstruse and hidden sense to His apostles.” 

Interesting that by Jesus explaining the parables to His disciples in private seems to delineate inklings of the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Church.  Although Jesus no longer walks the earth, the Magisterium is able to teach the faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.